Tag Archives: italian

Madison pizza round-up

The alphabetical gourmands of Eating in Madison A to Z are up to  “Pizza ____.”  I recently tagged along on their visit to Pizza Oven on the West Side:  the resulting review just went up on their blog.  Seems a good time to set down some of my own thoughts on Madison pizza.

Ian’s:  Pizza without boundaries.  The experiments are exciting even when they don’t work.   I’ve blogged enough already about this cultural treasure. Today Milwaukee, tomorrow the world.  Glass Nickel is a worthy contender in the same genre — the Thai Pie, in particular, is an experiment that’s become a perfected piece of pizza technology.  Also, they have delivery trucks that run on pizza grease.

Thin crust pies.  The best is Pizza Brutta, on upper Monroe, which makes a very thin, irregular, faintly sweet crust with nice blackened bubbles around the rim.  The traditionalist to Ian’s mad scientist.  My second favorite place to eat pizza in Madison.  Try the Portabella.  Greenbush Bar and Cafe Porta Alba (just re-opened in Hilldale) have devoted followings, and are always packed, and make a good thin crust pie; but nothing to match Brutta.  Pizza Oven isn’t in the league of Greenbush and Porta Alba,  but is charming if you grew up in the suburbs in the ’70s, and you won’t need to wait for a table in this cavernous shed-like former Hooters.

Thick crust pies. I’m against thick crust pies.  I don’t even know who, if anyone, makes them here.

New York pies. The best is Casa Bianca, way out west on Junction Road.  I’m told on good authority that the proprietors are not actually New York Italians, but Macedonians who ran a pizzeria at home and kept it up when they moved to Wisconsin; and moreover that they train just-arrived Macedonian immigrants to make New York pies, then send them out to open New York pizzerias in other Midwestern cities that lack one.  Looking this up on Yelp, I see that Casa Bianca seems to have gone out of business.  But I’m leaving this up because I found the story about the Macedonian pizza entrepreneurship lab kind of heartwarming.  I guess your only choice for New York pie now is Pizza di Roma on State, which mimics the experience of getting a big floppy extra greasy slice at a no-name pizza counter in Manhattan pretty much exactly, for better or worse.

I haven’t tried and have no opinion about:  Rocky Rococo’s, Gino’s.  I’ve had mediocre Italian food at and thus have low expectations for the pizza at:  Porta Bella, Paisan’s.  I’ve had good Italian food at and thus have high expectations for the pizza at:  Osteria Papavero (lunch only) and Cafe la Bellitalia.   I am put off by the name of and thus have low expectations for the pizza at:  Pizza Extreme.

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Math And: Arielle Saiber on Italian poetry and Italian algebra, Friday, Oct 23 at 4pm

Something to do tomorrow (besides eating the Beef n Brew slice): the Math And… seminar is very pleased to welcome Arielle Saiber from Bowdoin for our Fall 2009 lecture.  Arielle is an Italianist of very broad interests, with academic papers on Italian literature, the early history of algebra and geometry, Dali’s illustrations for Dante, and the polyvalent discourse of electronic music.  Tomorrow there will only be time to unite the first two.

23 Oct 2009, 4pm, Van Vleck B239: Arielle Saiber (Bowdoin, Italian)

Title “Nicollo Tartaglia’s Poetic Solution to the Cubic Equation.”

Niccolo Tartaglia’s (1449-1557) solution to solving cubic equations, which renowned mathematician and physician Girolamo Cardano wanted but Tartaglia resisted, led to one of the first intellectual property cases in Western history. Eventually, Tartaglia agreed to give Cardano what he so desired, but only if the latter promised he would not publish it. Cardano promised, and Tartaglia sent him the solution. Wasting little time, however, Cardano published the solution (along with a ‘general’ solution that he himself developed). Tartaglia was, not surprisingly, furious and began a vicious battle with Cardano’s assistant, Ludovico Ferrari (Cardano refused to engage Tartaglia directly). But vitriolic polemics aside, there is something else rather curious about this ordeal: the solution Tartaglia gave Cardano was encrypted in a poem. This talk looks at the motives behind his “poetic solution” and what it says about the close relationship between ‘poeisis’ and ‘mathesis’ in this period of mathematics’ history.

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Why aren’t you eating at Osteria Papavero?

Well? Why?

Osteria Papavero is a relatively new downtown Italian. Small friendly room, small reliable menu. A ladder with some vines slung over it gives the place a rustic feel, and at the moment there’s an agreeably modest Christmas tree in the corner. The other night, Mrs. Q and I started with ribolitta (not on the menu, but the place is quite accommodating to vegetarians who want more choices than the menu offers) and a plate of Italian cheeses, highlighted by Ubriaco — a spicy tongue-warming tannic kind of cheese, new to me, that spends most of its life drenched in wine, and tastes like it. Mrs. Q ordered tagliatini in black truffle sauce and I had a kind of elongated orrechiette whose name I forget, in a sausage and mushroom ragout. Both completely conventional and no less satisfying for that. You need places like this in town, places that do everything within tradition and with no mistakes. Ideally in a small friendly room. The French version of this is Sardine (except Sardine is in a big friendly room.) Oh, and Papavero isn’t very expensive; $60 for the two of us with coffee and dessert but no wine.

But I’m pretty sure you’re not eating there! Because it’s been mostly empty whenever we’ve gone.

Other remarks:

  • A kind of trademark is fried bread in the breadbasket; salty and oily, it’s both delicious and the kind of thing you wouldn’t be shocked to be served at the state fair, which makes it a funny thing to be eating at a restaurant like this.
  • The dessert was maybe the only challenging thing we ate: a very good chocolate tart which was interesting by virtue of not being very sweet.
  • Our neighbor, a postdoc visiting from Italy, says Papavero is the only Italian restaurant in town that’s Italian.
  • We brought a friend with celiac here once, and the chef was a perfect angel about preparing food that wouldn’t sicken her.
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